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MS wins Isle of Man government IT deal

Open Source didn't make the shortlist

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The Isle of Man government is to migrate its IT infrastructure onto the Windows Server 2003 platform. It has begun the move from its current mix of Novell, Sun and UNIX and expects to complete the transfer by 2006.

The contract with Microsoft covers around 200 application servers. Allan Paterson, director of information systems division of the IoM's treasury, said the need to consolidate systems under the Island's JUPITER (Joined Up Information for the Electronic Resident) programme provides rationale for the project.

"What we have is a very fragmented application base. Every solution is a point solution, because every department works to its own authority. The only central control has been budgetary. The result is that I have no idea how many databases we have with, for example, citizen's names and addresses in," he said. "So we need to join it up."

The servers, currently scattered across 140 locations, are being relocated to two data centres.

According to Patterson, the decision to go with Microsoft will reduce the portfolio of tools the IoM uses and reduce the number of skills needed to run IT in-house: "Historically we've had one person per product," he said. The availability of skills in third party partners and the wealth of off-the-shelf software also tilted the scales in Microsoft's favour.

"I don't have a department the scale of the UK government, but I have to offer a similar breadth of service with a very tight and finite resource," said Paterson. "And I have to deliver significantly improved services. So we've got this down to a set of core skills and need to make sure we have enterprise management around it."

Although part of the British Isles, the Isle of Man is not part of the UK and does not have to follow the same procurement rules, Paterson explained. It is under no obligation to consider open source, or even to open the bid process up to competitive tendering. If the Manx government officials can persuade the Treasury that there is a business case for not having a full tender, then they can avoid it and just buy from their chosen supplier.

Paterson is "blessed" with not having to consider open source as an option: "I believe open source solutions are all point solutions. It is really about technology for technology's sake."

The Isle of Man's position as a financial centre means it cannot afford to take business issues lightly: this is part of the reason Paterson is reluctant to engage the open source community. He says, in slightly guarded tones, that Linux people tend to be more technology than business focused.

The IoM government has anti-virus software running in three layers. "We are double and triple checking where appropriate," Paterson says. He thinks the security issues around Microsoft had become a bit overblown: "The biggest player is always targeted like this." ®

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